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LESSER KNOWN FACTS ABOUT THE JAPANESE LANGUAGE
- September 24, 2021
- Posted by: elanwp
- Category: Japanese Blogs
The Japanese written language is considered to be one of the world’s most complex and difficult to learn languages which can put many potential learners off. However, there are a number of attributes that will make learning the language a little easier; just like English Japanese has no gender and there is no differentiation between plural and singular. The biggest and most obvious challenge when it comes to learning Japanese is learning the characters. These have no relation to languages of a Latin origin and therefore it really is a case of having to learn and memorize them.
- Japanese uses four different systems of writing, these are: kanji, hiragana, katakana and romanji.
- Hiragana is syllabic and the most original writing system in Japan. It is used for simple words, conjugations, particles and children’s literature as it is the first set of writing which is taught.
- Katakana is used to write foreign words.
- Kanji is based on the Chinese writing system and consists of about 2000 signs. Kanji was imported from Chinese in the 6th century AD.
- Recently, romanji – a romanization of Japanese words – has developed, too. Often simplifying the original letters.
Some unknown facts about the Japanese Language
1. VERBS AREN’T CONJUGATED.
This one’s a relief to Japanese learners: verbs aren’t conjugated for person or number, so once you’ve learned the base verb, you don’t have to memorize tons of pesky derivatives. Instead, you can focus your attention on the complexities of the notoriously difficult Japanese writing systems.
2. JAPANESE BEARS NO RELATION TO ANY OTHER MAJOR LANGUAGE.
Unlike English, which is closely tied to Romance (e.g., Spanish, French) and Germanic languages (e.g., German), Japanese is not closely related to any other major language. In fact, until recently, it was classified as a language isolate, meaning that it is completely unique among all current world languages. Since then, linguists have found common roots between Japanese and Ryukyuan languages, which are indigenous languages spoken in southern Japan.
3. THE JAPANESE WORD FOR “JAPAN” MEANS “LAND OF THE RISING SUN”.
The word “Japan” is a foreign word – Japanese people call their countryにほん (Nihon) or にっぽん (Nippon), which roughly translates to “Land of the Rising Sun”.
4. ALMOST 10% OF INTERNET USERS SPEAK JAPANESE.
Japanese is the 9th most-spoken language worldwide, but it’s the third-largest language on the Internet, behind English and Spanish. Even though Japanese speakers represent less than 2% of the world population, they make up almost 10% of Internet users.
5. THE JAPANESE LANGUAGE EVOLVED IN THE 6TH CENTURY FROM THE YAMATO PEOPLE.
Around 1500 years ago, the Yamato people set up the first dynasty in what is now known as Japan. Their language eventually evolved into modern Japanese as we know it today.
6. JAPANESE FEATURES LOANWORDS FROM LANGUAGES ALL OVER THE WORLD.
Japanese contains a vast amount of 外来語 (“gairaigo”, loanwords from other languages). However, these don’t just come from English. Some words like テレビ (“terebi”) derive from English. Indeed, other languages are present too: パン (“pan”, bread) comes from Portuguese pão, and アルバイト (“arubaito”, part-time worker) comes from the German word Arbeit (work).
7. HOMOPHONES ABOUND.
If you thought that English has a lot of homophones (words that mean different things but are pronounced the same), try studying Japanese! All eight characters below are pronounced shin, but they mean totally different things: God, to advance, to believe, new, true, stretch, heart, and parent, from left to right.
8. HONORIFICS ABOUND, TOO.
Japanese makes extensive use of honorifics, which involve adding suffixes to words in order to show various degrees of respect. Different honorific suffixes are used for peers, children, guests, elders, colleagues, teachers, and more!
9. JAPANESE IS ONE OF THE FASTEST SPOKEN LANGUAGES.
A recent study compared the speed (in syllables per second) at which native speakers of various languages talk. Japanese topped the list at a rip-roaring 7.84 syllables per second! For comparison, English is spoken at a comparatively snail-paced 6.19 syllables per second.